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The best of the underground with an esoteric following

Mixing white noise with a beat

By JON CASIMIR

E PERI MENTAL is a word too

often applied to bands who defy the categorisation of the mainstream — it is a word frequently attached to both Scattered Order and Severed Heads.

Not exactly commercial radio fod der, these two bands represent the best of Australia's underground creative achievement over the past five years.

Formed in Sydney around the turn of the decade, both have since built a steady, if somewhat esoteric or elitist following in their home city and

around the world.

Scattered Order began as a project of sadly-missed maverick independ ent record label, M Squared.

Heavily influenced by European electronic music, particularly the likes of Can, their objective was to explore the possibilities of mixing "white noise with a beat."

Conceived by label director Mitch Jones, Scattered Order became a shift ing collective of musicians, and re leased five records in as many years.

Their latest, 'Career Of The Silly Thing', is their most interesting and accessible, with a more harmonious synthesis of noise and beat than they had previously achieved.

"It's becoming more of a musical proposition," said bassist Craig Rob ertson. "Instead of just throwing things against the wall and seeing

what sticks."

For the first time, the band's line up has stabilised, allowing them the opportunity to explore cach other's talents and develop a communal style.

"The most complex arrangements we used to have were a loud bit and a quiet bit," said vocalist Mitch Jones. "All the songs on the new LP are arranged, except for one, 'Re member May 12', which has a very

loose feel."

Their last album,'A Dancing Foot And A Praying Knee Don't Belong On The Same Leg', cost only $200 to make. The money spent on 'Career Of The Silly Thing' seems extravagant by comparison.

"We did 12 songs in 70 hours or so," said Mitch, "and the whole thing (including the engineer) cost us $3,000. That's a small single budget for a lot of major companies.

"We were able to do it because we did heaps of pre-production. I had piles of notes, every song was charted from beginning to end. Wc used every minute of studio time to the best advantage."

While they may never completely shake their avant garde tag, Scattered Order are definitely moving towards more popular forms of music.

"Someone said that Brian Eno's

'Taking Tiger Mountain* album is like a pop album by aliens who've come to Earth, studied the forms of pop music, and tried to make their own," Craig explains. "That's what we're like."

A quick scan of the lyric sheet for 'Career..' reveals an obsession with the grotesque on the part of major songwriters Mitch and his wife Orusilla. A question on this elicits a somewhat strange reply.

"Dru and I got married," Mitch said. "This is our honeymoon album. A lot of the lyrics were written on our honeymoon and the photographs on the cover are the view from the top of the building where we stayed.

"A lot of the images are lines I've heard on radio or TV, or descriptions of things I've seen. I'm fascinated with the grotesque. I'd be the first person to be physically ill at it. I'm probably a big wimp."

This obsession with the ugly and horrific is something shared by Se vered Heads, Austalia's most in novative electronic band.

Indeed, their albums have been peppered with such gems as 'The Bladders Of A Thousand Bedouin', 'Blubber Knife', 'Gashing The Old Mae West', and 'Dead Eyes Opened.'

The band has a flexible line-up, centred around stalwart Tom Ellard. Like Scattered Order, they are more successful in England and Europe.

In Australia, they are both con tracted to Sydney's excellent Volition label, whose drive and energy has considerably upgraded the packaging of their products.

Their music, based around sequen cers, synthesisers and tape loop*, is in places reminiscent of Cabaret Volt aire and Throbbing Gristle.

One of their main attractions is their perverse creativity. Many of the sounds are not what they seem to be. What at first may sound like a bass drum could turn out to be a slowed down recording of a basketball being thrown against a wall.

Severed Heads have released three albums, an EP, a cassette-only LP, and a 20-minute video. Later this month they will release a new mini album, and an hour-long video to coincide with this tour.

Neither band plays live often, and this is a rare chance to see two of the country's most interesting bands on

the same bill.

2XX presents Scattered Order and Severed Heads at the ANU on Octo ber 5.

Scattered Order: a project of maverick label M Squared.

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